afrol News, 17 March - The tombs of the Buganda kings, Uganda's only World Heritage cultural site, were mostly destroyed by fire last night. Only a few structures of the historically and religiously important tombs in Kasubi could be saved.
Citizens in Kampala this night witnessed a large fire at the historic hill site of Kasubi close to the capital. Most of the royal tombs of the old Buganda kingdom were impossible to save and were lost to the fire. At least four of the main tombs housing earlier Buganda kabakas (kings) were totally damaged.
The burial site is regarded the most important cultural heritage of the once powerful Buganda kingdom, the strongest political entity in the interior of East Africa before British colonisation in the 1890s.
The royal Buganda tombs are impressive constructions, but mostly built of highly ignitable materials such as wood and reed. The Kasubi site was inscribed into the prestigious Unesco World Heritage list in 2001 - the first and only cultural site in Uganda - because of its "intangible values of belief, spirituality, continuity and identity."
The news of the destructive fire was met with shock in Uganda this night and morning. People have been flocking to the site to see what is left. Great crowds have expressed their sorrow and frustration.
President Yoweri Museveni inspected the few remaining structures this morning, and was later followed by opposition leader Kizza Besigye. The Ugandan Pre
Royal Buganda tombs: Great hut seen from the main courtyard (Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga)
sident announced immediate investigations into the fire, saying that preliminary reports could not exclude arson. He however lamented that the big crowd had "interfered with the scene of the crime," making arson investigations more complicated.
The President also told the crowd that authorities would consider possibilities for a reconstruction. "Government will see how it can assist in undoing the damage caused," President Museveni said.
The current Kabaka of Buganda, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, today also visted the site. Ugandan media report the Kabaka was seen to be too saddened to make the expected speech to the large crowd. The king's spokesman Medard Sseggona however told journalists that the court would "set up independent investigations as a kingdom."
In most of Uganda's post-independence history, the kabakas have experienced strong conflicts with the political leaders of Uganda. Also the current Kabaka is a thorn in the eye of President Museveni's attempt to control national politics. The Baganda, citizens of the Buganda kingdom, remain the largest population group in modern Uganda, and political leaders fear the potential political influence the Kabaka could develop.
The conflict between
Kabaka Mwanga II, ruling Buganda in 1884-97, was forced into exile in Seychelles by the British, but in 1910 his remains were repatriated and buried at Kasubi
Baganda royalists and the Ugandan government threatens to resurface with the loss of the royal tombs. Already this night, protesters clashed with the police, and at least one person was killed by security forces. If the fire is interpreted as an arson attack on Buganda culture, observers fear large-scale riots could break out.
The royal tombs stand as a key monument for the Baganda, their proud history and their religious beliefs. The kabakas still actively and frequently use the Kasubi site to perform religious and other rites, gathering large groups. These rites have often been seen as a challenge to the political leaders of Uganda.
The fascinating architecture, palace design and history of the royal tombs have also made them the major tourist attraction in the Kampala region.
The Unesco-listed site on the Kasubi hilltop includes the former palace of the Buganda kabakas, built in 1882 and converted into the royal burial ground in 1884. The UN's cultural agency describes the tombs as "a major example of an architectural achievement in organic materials, principally wood, thatch, reed, wattle and daub," reflecting "technical achievements developed over many centuries" in the Buganda kingdom.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.